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Contract Law Vitiating Factors Duress Notes

BCL Law Notes > Contract Law: Vitiating Factors Notes

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• Last semester - formation & content - terms etc

• We assumed that the parties entered the contracts voluntarily

• However parties may argue that upon entering the contract,
they weren't acting voluntarily

• Semester 2 - 'vitiating' - destroy or impair the legal validity of.

Duress is a common-law remedy which renders a contract voidable -
may be repudiated
This requires steps to be taken
Until steps taken, contract has legal effect/existence
Void - never existed legally


Physical threats

Most extreme

Offer made that one can't refuse

In those circumstances - forced/physically threatened -


Lessee of Blackwood v Gregg 92-year-old man was physically abducted by relatives. During the abduction period, entered contract in favour of relatives/abductors.
Agreement set aside for duress Emotional force

Arises where the threat is to emotional well-being rather than physical well-being.
o Traditionally > voluntary union between man and woman for life

Marriage > definition evolved > intro of divorce > union temporary instead of for life. Also, need not be between man and woman (same sex)
o Requirement that union is voluntary remains the same

In past, only way to legally end a marriage was to seek an annulment where both parties were not acting voluntarily

Emotional pressure placed upon them

Haines v. Carter [2001]
Former co-habiting partner threatened to bring trouble of the plaintiff to attention of the Inland Revenue service and his bank. Held that this can raise a plea of duress (but on the facts it didn't amount to duress as the court found that the partner was merely 'stating the obvious')
- Threats to prosecute/fear of prosecution is enough to amount to emotional duress

Griffith v Griffith 19-year-old goes on holidays with 16-year-old to Howth head. Girl becomes pregnant and young man is put under 'emotional pressure'
by his parents, her parents and parish priest to marry. Threatened that if he doesn't, he could be criminally prosecuted. Marries girl.
Child is not his. Wants to get out of marriage. Divorce & judicial separation not in existence. Is he entitled?
Yes, because
- Due to the duress, he was not acting voluntarily

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